11-01-20 | Printable Version

Aug.-Nov. 2020

Local Buyers Dominate as Pandemic Wears On

Gannett Unloads BridgeTower Media

Small deal activity increased significantly during the third quarter, with nearly 20 transactions closing since August. The vast majority of buyers were small groups or independents, as most of the large newspaper companies remained on the sidelines while weathering the pandemic.

Strategic add-ons remained a theme for the larger newspaper groups that did close transactions, including Paxton Media Group, WEHCO Newspapers and Sample News Group.

Gannett made headlines in November with the sale of its BridgeTower Media division to Transom Capital Group. Prior to its merger with Gannett, GateHouse had built the BridgeTower group through a series of acquisitions, growing it into a leading provider of B2B information, research, events, and marketing solutions. BridgeTower serves more than 25 U.S. markets and industries.

The sale of McClatchy Co. to Chatham Asset Management was finalized in September.

Seven Shift in Colorado
Jerry Healey’s Colorado Community Media acquired Landmark Community Newspapers’ seven Colorado weeklies and companion websites. Prior to the acquisition, Colorado Community Media already owned and operated 17 weekly and two monthly newspapers in the greater Denver area.

The newspapers acquired were the Brighton Standard Blade, Fort Lupton Press, Commercial City Sentinel Express, Metro Advertiser, Canyon Courier, Clear Creek Courant and 285 Hustler. All the papers distribute in the greater Denver market.

Hussman Builds in Arkansas
Walter Hussman’s WEHCO Newspapers, Inc. acquired the daily Pine Bluff (AR) Commercial from Gannett.

The Pine Bluff Commercial is now included in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s Arkansas section in their digital replica edition seven days a week, and is included in the print edition delivered to subscribers of the Pine Bluff Commercial on Sundays. The newspaper had been printed and mailed five days a week.

Byron Tate, a previous editor and publisher of the Commercial, has returned as editor of the newspaper.

Westplex Buys from Gannett
Gannett sold the twice-weekly Mexico (MO) Ledger to family-owned Westplex Media Group. It is the third community newspaper in Westplex’s portfolio.

Westplex Media Group owner Tim Schmidt said he is excited to take over stewardship of the paper.

“This expansion is a natural fit for our family-owned company,” he said. “Our goal each week is to print a better newspaper than the last one. We're excited to see what the future holds.”
Schmidt, who has nearly 20 years of experience in the newspaper industry, founded Westplex Media Group in 2018 when he purchased the Montgomery Standard, a weekly newspaper in Montgomery City, Missouri. Schmidt added a second weekly newspaper in October 2019 when he acquired the Warren County Record in Warrenton, Missouri.

Better Newspapers Adds Two
Better Newspapers, another member of the emerging group of independent and family-owned companies adding to their rosters, acquired two titles in Illinois.

The family-owned company purchased the weekly Vandalia (IL) Leader-Union from Landmark Community Newspapers and the weekly Douglas County (IL) Herald from owner Sue Jones Curry and other shareholders.

It’s a family affair at Better Newspapers. Greg Hoskins holds the role of president, his wife, Linda, works in the editorial department, and his sons Scott and Mark also hold key management roles in the company.

Hoskins bought his first group of newspapers with business partner Cleon Birkemeyer in 1991 in Mascoutah, Illinois. Today, Better Newspapers publishes 25 titles in central and southern Illinois and in southern Missouri.

Better Newspapers’ numerous Illinois titles include the Mascoutah Herald, Clinton County News, Scott Flier (which serves Scott Air Force Base), and the Illinois Business Journal. Among the Missouri publications are the St. Genevieve Herald, Reynolds County Courier, Ozark Horse Trader, and Wayne County Journal Banner. In 2012, Hoskins also built a regional press plant in Altamont, Illinois.

The newly-acquired Vandalia (IL) Leader-Union had long been owned by Kentucky-based Landmark Community Newspapers. The Douglas County Herald began publication in 1887 and had been owned by the Curry family since 1910.

Schneps Media Continues to Grow
Schneps Media, which has recently grown to be the largest community media company in the New York region, acquired Dan’s Independent Media, the largest and most diversified media company on Long Island, from Isis Venture Partners.

Dan’s Papers has chronicled the summer happenings of the Hamptons since 1958 and had been owned by Isis Venture Partners’ Manhattan Media for ten years.

In addition to the flagship Dan’s Papers, Schneps also acquired the food festival series Dan’s Taste of Summer, the real estate franchise Behind The Hedges, Dan’s Best of the Best ratings and a very large social media following.

Since 2019, Schneps has acquired amNew York, Metro New York and Metro Philadelphia. It now has a portfolio of 72 publications and associated websites and social media channels.

Gannett Sells Nantucket Inquirer and Mirror to Local Group
Gannett sold the weekly Nantucket Inquirer and Mirror and its property to 41 North Media, a local group of investors led by David Worth. Worth is a direct descendent of William Worth, who settled on Nantucket in 1662.

First published in 1821, The Inquirer and Mirror is one of the oldest newspapers in the country.

Before retirement, Worth had a long career in international business. Today he is active with several Nantucket nonprofits, including the Nantucket Historical Association and the Nantucket Conservation Foundation.

Paxton Media Group Continues to Buy
Paxton Media Group has continued to strategically add properties in recent months, acquiring the twice-weekly Wilkes Journal-Patriot newspaper in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina from Carter-Hubbard Publishing Co. The Hubbard family had owned the newspaper since 1910.

Paxton’s North Carolina/Tennessee/Georgia division includes the nearby Monroe (NC) Enquirer-Journal.

Phillips Media Group Adds in Missouri
Phillips Media Group acquired the weekly Warrensburg (MO) Daily Star-Journal from St. Joseph, Missouri-based News-Press & Gazette Co.

Phillips Media Group publishes several newspapers in Missouri and Arkansas.

“We appreciate the opportunity to take over operations of the Star-Journal from NPG,” Phillips Media President Jim Holland said in a statement. “By utilizing efficiencies in management and printing with our Sedalia newspaper, we see the opportunity to improve the Star-Journal for the community.”

The Star-Journal has served Johnson County for 155 years. The newspaper will be operated by the leadership of the Sedalia Democrat.

Sample Purchases Pennsylvania paper
Sample News Group has acquired The Indiana (PA) Gazette from the Donnelly family.
Sample owns more than 75 publications in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire. Its 11 other newspapers in Pennsylvania include The Bedford Gazette, The Huntingdon Daily News, The Gettysburg Times, The News Item in Shamokin, The Review in Towanda, and The Latrobe Bulletin.

The sale of the Gazette did not include the Donnelly family’s commercial printing operation, Gazette Printers, which continues under the ownership of Indiana Printing & Publishing.

Local Investor Group Adds in California
Coastside News Group Inc. was established by local residents in 2017 to purchase the Half Moon Bay newspaper from Wick Communications.

It was created as a public benefit corporation – a concept we are hearing more and more about these days. A public benefit corporation must be driven by its mission and exist for the community good.

CNGI recently added a second newspaper to its holdings, the Pacifica Tribune, which it acquired from Sherm Frederick’s Battle Born Media. Battle Born Media will continue to own newspapers in Marin County and Nevada.

Employees Take the Reins
Morris Multimedia, Inc. sold its California newspapers to its longtime group publisher, Hank Vander Veen, and his wife, Kelly Vander Veen.

The deal included the Manteca/Ripon Bulletin, Turlock Journal, Oakdale Leader, Ceres Courier, Escalon Times, Riverbank News and 209 Magazine.

Hank and Kelly Vander Veen, both Central Valley natives, purchased the publications through their corporation, 209 Multimedia. Hank Vander Veen previously spent 25 years with The McClatchy Company with six years as publisher at the Merced Sun-Star.

The Morris family had owned the Bulletin since 1972. The sale will allow Georgia-based Morris Multimedia to focus their efforts on their core broadcast and publishing properties closer to home.

In another transition to local employee ownership, a group of employees successfully negotiated a deal to buy the weekly Webster-Kirkwood (MO) Times after it ceased publishing due to pandemic-related financial pressures.

Employees Randy Drilingas, Jaime Mowers and Kent Tentschert took the reins and returned the Times to a weekly print schedule in September.

Drilingas is the paper’s creative director, Mowers is a reporter and Kent Tentschert is the classified ads manager and film critic. Eric Tentschert, Kent's brother, is a financial partner.

Mullen Acquires Weeklies in Three States
J. Louis Mullen has added titles in three states: The Emmons County Record in Linton, North Dakota, the Prairie Pioneer in Pollock, South Dakota, and Harlan Newspapers in Iowa.
Mullen purchased the Emmons County Record and the Prairie Pioneer from long-time owners Allan and Leah Burke, who were ready to retire. He purchased Harlan Newspapers from the Mores family.

Wyoming-based Mullen owns weekly newspapers in North Dakota, South Dakota, Michigan, Oregon, and Washington.

New Ownership in Silverton, Colorado
A group of locals led by Aaron Brill, co-owner of Silverton Mountain ski area, acquired the Silverton Standard & the Miner from the San Juan County Historical Society.

The newspaper was donated to the historical society in 2009 by Randy Miller’s Thirteenth Street Media after Miller purchased the Standard as part of a package that included the Norwood Post and the Telluride Daily Planet in July 2008.

The Standard has been designated a National Historic Site in Journalism by the Society of Professional Journalists. It is the only newspaper in Colorado with such a designation.

Founded in 1875, the Standard is not only the oldest continuously operated newspaper on the Western Slope of Colorado, it is also considered the oldest business of any kind in the region.

Weeklys Grows in California
Metro Newspapers, now known as Weeklys, acquired the 60-year-old Press Banner from Tank Town Media in October. The Press Banner joins a group that includes GoodTimes and Aptos Life.

The weekly Press Banner provides news coverage of Boulder Creek and the San Lorenzo Valley in California.

Tank Town Media, owned by longtime publishers Will Fleet and Ralph Alldredge, had owned the Press Banner since 2012 when it acquired it with the Tracy Press.

This is just the most recent acquisition by Weeklys. In 2019, it acquired the 152-year-old Watsonville Register-Pajaronian from News Media Corp. of Rochelle, Illinois, a deal that also included the Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune, which Weeklys has since combined into the Salinas Valley Tribune. In addition, Weeklys purchased the independently owned East Bay Express earlier this year.

Weeklys’ other publications include Metro Silicon Valley, Morgan Hill Times and Gilroy Dispatch in Santa Clara County; and weeklies in Monterey, San Benito, Alameda, Marin and Sonoma counties.

Albuquerque Alt Changes Hands
Nucity Publications Inc. sold the Alibi, an alternative publication serving Albuquerque, New Mexico, to Albuquerque City Councilor Pat Davis.

Davis took over as publisher and co-owner alongside his business partner Abby Lewis.

ounded in 1992, the free Weekly Alibi has long been an alternative news source to Albuquerque’s daily paper, the Albuquerque Journal. Like many of its alt weekly peers, the Alibi has struggled with dwindling circulation and ad revenues and stopped printing in April, May and June at the outset of COVID-19.